Magazine article National Defense

From a Distance: Defense, Law-Enforcement Agencies Seek Advanced Surveillance Tools

Magazine article National Defense

From a Distance: Defense, Law-Enforcement Agencies Seek Advanced Surveillance Tools

Article excerpt

Suicide bombers, improvised explosive devices and the threats of chemical or biological weapons are creating increased demand for cutting edge technologies that can detect or survey potential hazards from stand-off distances.

Every year, the multi-agency Technical Support Working Group disperses

seed money for companies large and small that can solve some of the nation's most pressing and challenging security issues. Researchers, engineers and company representatives packed an auditorium at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center for the agency's annual industry day.

While none of the working group's officials said it directly, the ability to detect dangers from stand-off distances emerged as a major need this year.

Up for grabs is anywhere from $80 million to $100 million for firms, universities or even lone inventors working out of their garages to get projects off the ground.

Securing these funds is not easy, though. TSWG'S shopping list contains many items that simply don't yet exist and can keep even the most talented engineers awake at night pondering possible solutions. Take for example, the portable shoulder-fired missile detection system. The Defense and Homeland Security Departments would like the ability to detect a man-portable air defense system missile within a five-kilometer perimeter before it is launched. TSWG wants to know if they can be detected when a potential adversary first flips the switch and activates the electronics.

And if that weren't hard enough, TSWG wants the system to give aircraft pilots enough time to take evasive maneuvers. The sensor must be concealable so adversaries don't know it's there. It must be small enough to be picked up and moved to other locations. And in cases where it must be left behind, it needs anti-tampering and self-destruct features. …

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